The number of independent domestic violence advisers needs to increase by at least 30% in order to reach the required level of support for high risk victims, campaigners have warned.
There are now only an estimated 500 independent domestic violence advisers (IDVA) in post, according to a report by Coordinated Action for Domestic Violence and Abuse (Caada).
The charity, which warns local authority cuts have seen domestic violence support "depleted" in recent years, estimates that at least 650 IDVAS are needed to support all high risk domestic violence victims in the UK.
IDVAs work with complex, high-risk domestic violence cases and work in partnership with local Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC). They also act as independent advocates for victims at court and in any contact with the criminal justice system.
Value for money analysis
In an analysis of over 2,500 domestic violence cases the Caada report estimates that the IDVA model saves £2.90 for every £1 invested. Almost two-thirds of victims in touch with IDVA support had a “total cessation of abuse” at case closure, IDVA workers reported.
The government has agreed to part fund 144 IDVA and 54 MARAC coordinator posts with £3.3m funding per year until 2015.
Now Caada is calling on local authorities, and NHS and police commissioners, to pool budgets and help fund the recommended staffing level – four IDVA posts and one MARAC coordinator per 100,000 people – for the next three years.
The need for mainstream funding
Diana Barran, chief executive of Caada, said that IDVA posts were vulnerable as they are often funded by smaller charities, many of whom had suffered from cuts. Mainstream funding was essential to stabilise support, she said.
“That’s why this evidence is important. It demonstrates the impact that investing or disinvesting in these services could have,” Barran said.
“It impacts the workforce and victims too. Often an IDVA is the only person who is focusing on the adult victim. They do all of the case management and coordinate different agencies to help that victim. That is time consuming and important work.”
Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, said IDVAs play a "vital role" in support for domestic violence victims.
“IDVAs are already a finite resource, we don't have enough of them anyway. It's very concerning that support for people who are already traumatised by domestic violence is being reduced, particularly when you look at cuts to things like legal aid," said Mansuri.
"With legal aid going you are removing one layer of support. If then someone can't access an IDVA either then it is another safeguard being diluted in the system."
Councillor Ann Lucas, the Local Government Association's spokeswoman on domestic violence, said "no local politician or professional takes decisions on reducing these services lightly."
"Councils work extremely hard with police, health, voluntary and other organisations to prevent this violence and ensure victims access the wide range of help they need," she said.
"Even though central government has reduced council funding by 28%, many local authorities supported the same or a greater number of victims over the last year as they did in the year before."
On the prospects for mainstream funding of domestic violence services, Lucas added: "Pooling budgets and working more closely together is not easy to achieve when there are fundamental reforms of the police and health services,"
"Central government needs to be encouraging other public services to come together with councils to jointly fund and commission services in new and different ways so victims can continue to be supported while budgets reduce."
Gaps in support for children and young people
The Caada report also highlights gaps in domestic violence support for children and young people.
The case analysis found that two-thirds of domestic violence victims had children living in or visiting the home, most of whom were under five. Child protection services were involved in 35% of cases.
Despite children living with domestic violence being at increased risk of behavioural problems, trauma and mental health issues, Caada found that their needs are still being overlooked by under-pressure agencies.
“We know that statutory services are drowning and struggling in terms of thresholds,” said Barran.
“It’s hard that after all the different reports and investigations, such as the Victoria Climbie inquiry, that children are still being overlooked. But we regularly go to places where that is the case.”
The report also recommends that dedicated IDVA support should be provided for teenage victims of domestic violence. Young people’s services needed to have expertise in handling issues such as gangs, sexual exploitation and ‘honour’-based violence, it said.